Parenting Ideas was founded by Australia's leading parenting educator, Michael Grose. Parenting Ideas offer positive parenting tips on child development for raising children and teenagers to be happy & resilient and building strong families.
Disciplining sensitive kids is usually never straightforward. Sensitive kids, those creative, empathetic types who generally wear their hearts on their sleeve and take even the slightest criticism personally need to be handled with care.
It’s tempting to avoid disciplining them altogether to avoid hurting their feelings. But sensitive kids need also to learn to become social and likeable so they can reach their full social potential. They also like to feel safe and secure so a permissive ‘do whatever’ approach is not for this group.
If your child is the sensitive, worrying type make it a rule of thumb to check in with your child after discipline to make sure that everything is okay. You need to make peace even if you can’t see the need.
Some discipline techniques to avoid with sensitive children:
Shaming, naming and blaming
‘You should be ashamed of yourself’; “You’re a naughty girl” and “It’s all your fault!” should be left out of every parents’ armoury of responses as they often do more harm than good, and can be ineffectual with children who learn to tolerate persona affronts. With sensitive types they can have a devastating impact on their self-esteem. Such phrases uttered with emotional intensity (read anger and frustration) can more than just sting – they can have a lasting impact on kids who wear their hearts on their sleeves.
This method should be off the table altogether but especially for this group.
Withdrawal of love and affection
There’s a difference between withdrawing affection and withdrawing attention. The latter is temporary and is aimed at specific behaviours that kids use to keep parents busy. The former is more permanent and can be accompanied by shaming or guilt-laden language and can be damaging to relationships and children’s sense of self. Sensitive children often confuse the temporary withdrawal of attention with withdrawal of affection so it’s probably best to keep ignoring children’s behaviour to a minimum.
Sensitive kids usually hate the isolation of time out. They tend to fret rather than reflect, which is the main purpose of this method.
Discipline to favour with sensitive children:
Give them a chance to make good
Most sensitive kids crave adult approval so a stern look or a change in voice tone is often enough to communicate your disapproval followed by some advice about better behaviour next time. Give them the chance to make good or to pick up their game and they will generally respond in kind.
Be friendly and firm
While friendly and firm discipline sounds like a cliché it is very much a reality for sensitive kids. Move close, speak quietly and assure them your relationship is not harmed by their poor behaviour.
Use consequences sparingly
If kids repeatedly break a rule or misbehave when the limits are clear use a consequence but make sure you deliver it like a neutral cop. Watch for a shame reaction and adjust accordingly. Importantly, try to work out why she or he is behaving poorly or breaking a limit or rule.
Replace time out with time in
Place them close to you – on a chair or similar spot – when they need to calm down or spend some time pondering their behaviour. Quiet time doesn’t need to be isolating time.
Repair the relationship
It’s always good to revisit your child after discipline to re-establish good will. In a practical sense it’s not always possible. However if your child is the more sensitive, worrying type make it a rule of thumb to check in with your child after discipline to make sure that everything is okay. You need to make peace even though you can’t see the need.
It’s funny how the seemingly small things cause the greatest angst for kids – a sneer from a sibling; a curt remark from a teacher or being left off a classmate’s birthday party invitation list can leave a child feeling insecure, even sad.
While some issues such as sibling disputes are perennial others such as helping children manage the disappointment of missing a friend’s birthday party is a more pressing concern for primary-aged children right now. In fact, according to many teachers and parents I meet many children’ birthday parties are creating rifts between children, leading to alienation for those left off the party list.
Issue invitations with sensitivity
It’s a good life lesson for a child to learn that they can’t be invited to everything. But not being invited to a party shouldn’t make a child feel isolated or humiliated. Disappointment is normal; humiliation and alienation are not acceptable. Which means children need to give out invitations while being mindful of the feelings of others. This is where good parenting comes in. We need to remind, and if necessary teach children, how to give out invitations sensitively being mindful of the possible disappointment that some children will experience. Likewise all children who are going to a party should be reminded of their social obligations to all classmates, not just those who are in the “in” crowd. Tolerance and social graces are the foundations of a civil society and these lessons start in primary school.
Helping kids handle disappointment
One of the keys to functioning socially and emotionally is the ability to deal with disappointment and rejection.
So whether it is a case of not receiving an invitation to a classmate’s birthday party or a school playground snub, most children experience some type of rejection from their peers throughout childhood. Most children recover from such rejection. They move on and form constructive, worthwhile relationships but some children need help. They often take rejection personally, blaming themselves. As a parent it is useful to challenge children’s unhelpful thinking and encourage them to look for new friendship opportunities. Parents can help children understand that rejection may happen for any number of reasons that are unrelated to them.
In the course of a school day children will meet with a number of challenges and even setbacks. They may struggle with some schoolwork. They may not do well in a test and they may not be picked for a game that they wanted to play. Children grow stronger when they overcome their difficulties. The challenge for parents is to build and maintain children’s confidence to help them get through the rough times.
One way to help children deal with rejection and disappointment is to talk through problems or difficulties, recognising and accepting their feelings. Talk about various scenarios, discussing possible outcomes. The age of the child will determine the amount of detail. Keep things simple and avoid burdening a younger child with concepts he or she doesn’t understand.
Your attitude can make a huge difference to how a child reacts. If you see rejection or disappointments as problems then your child will be hamstrung by this view. See them as challenges then your child will, in all likelihood, will pick up your upbeat view and deal with disappointments easily. After all, confidence is catching!
To help children handle rejection and disappointment try the following four strategies:
Model optimism. Watch how you present the world to children, as they will pick up your view.
Tell children how you handle disappointment and rejection. Not only is it reassuring for children to know that their parents understand how they feel but they can learn a great deal by how their parents handle situations.
Help children recognise times in the past when they bounced back from disappointment. Help them recognise those some strategies can be used again.
Laugh together. Humour is a great coping mechanism. It helps put disappointment in perspective. It helps them understand that things will get better. They always do.
The end of daylight savings isn’t something that often fills parents with joy, despite the promise of “extra time” for sleep. In reality, a child’s biological clock doesn’t automatically change with your household clocks. Your child may struggle to adjust to the time change even though it’s only one hour’s difference.
Here are some simple ideas to help children make the transition with minimal disruption.
Shift their sleep schedule forward
Push back your child’s schedule by 20-25 minutes on both Friday and Saturday. Adjust nap times (for toddlers), meal times and bedtimes in preparation for later sleep patterns.
Be prepared for early risers
If you move bedtime later, hopefully your child will sleep later. However as you would know, their sleep patterns don’t always fit your plans. If they wake early, encourage them to stay in their rooms. Alternatively, use an okay-to-wake clock which gives the okay when it’s time to get up for the day.
Get your kids outside
Your child’s sleep clock is regulated by exposure to natural light and darkness, and it’s reset every day. Take advantage of this phenomenon and expose them to natural sunlight once they get up in the morning and as often as practical during the day. Make their last exposure to the sun at 4.00pm on Sunday to prepare their sleep clock for the new bedtime according to the house clock.
Keep them busy
Adding extra activities can help tire children out, which could make them more receptive to sleep come bed time.
Be patient if it takes a day or two for your child’s sleep clock to adjust. It’s usually easier to delay sleep, which is effectively what you are doing, than advancing it as occurs when daylight-saving starts. Each year we go through this shift and every year we adjust so remind yourself this is just another seasonal change.
Kids of all ages are excellent at wearing down the resistence of a parent who denies permission for them to go somewhere due to lack of safety or suitability concerns. Unfortunately many kids use annoying methods such as:
repetition (Can I go? Can I go? Can I go?);
questioning (Why can’t I go?);
guilt (You never let me go anywhere!);
nagging (Can I, can I, can I go, pleeease!) and
whining (Ahhh! Whyyy Caaan’t I gooo!)
Often we are so tired that we give just to gain some peace, which makes pester power a useful strategy as kids achieve what they want.
Our hope is that our kids are able to avoid or counter the risk as much as humanly possible. One way of assessing this is asking them to convince you that they are responsible, old enough and possess sufficient awareness to go into new situations and places.
One way to avoid this obnoxious pestering is to ask them to convince you that they are responsible enough, old (read mature) enough or aware enough to be allowed to go somewhere.
Here’s an example:
“Amelia, I’m not sure that I should allow you to take the train into the city with friends. I’m worried that it might not be safe. Convince me that you can do so safely.”
This response puts the onus back on the child or young person to think to counter your concerns. Listen carefully to their response as it will indicate whether they really have considered your concerns and are aware of the depth or range of potential difficulties.
Simplistic responses don’t cut it
If they respond with simplistic comments such as; “I’ll be okay”, “we’ll stick together” and “I won’t do anything stupid” then they are probably unaware or unprepared for contingencies that may arise.
However if they provide a response with more depth, they may demonstrate their readiness. An example for this might be “I know you are worried that we might get picked on by older kids on the train. That worries me too. We’ll make sure we pick a carriage with plenty of adults and if kids hop on that look like they’ll give us a hard time, we’ll get off at the next station.”
Answers such as the above show they understand your concerns and also that they have some strategies in mind to minimise risk. As a parent we’d like to remove risk from our kids’ lives but this is unrealistic. As kids grow up their world rapidly expands taking them further away from the safe confines of home, and exposing them to new and potentially risky situations and people. Our hope is that our kids are able to avoid or counter the risk as much as humanly possible. One way of assessing this is asking them to convince you that they are responsible, old enough and possess sufficient awareness to go into new situations and places.
“Convince me!” may well be the smartest two words you’ll ever use as a parent. It may stop pester-power in its tracks and at the same time induce your child or young person to think ahead and better prepare for spreading their wings when you don’t feel they are quite ready.
Last Friday’s shooting of innocent people in two Christchurch mosques is an event that has shaken people to the core worldwide.
While we’d like to protect our children from such events, in reality it’s impossible, as the news coverage is so widespread and the event itself has impacted so many people. The personal nature of this particular tragedy makes it even harder to stomach than some recent natural disasters that have made the news, as awful as they have been.
Let your child or young person know that it is okay to talk about the events in Christchurch. Listen to what they think and feel.
So how do you approach this with your children? What do you say to a young child who wants an explanation? How do you respond to a primary school child trying to come to terms with the fact that one person could commit this offence? How do you respond to a teenager who is angry that a gunman could target one particular community group? There are no easy answers to these questions, but be assured that your child will benefit from talking to you. These ideas may help:
Let your child or young person know that it is okay to talk about the events in Christchurch. Listen to what they think and feel. By listening, you can find out if they have misunderstandings, and you can learn more about the support that they need. You do not need to explain more than they are ready to hear, but be willing to answer their questions.
Filter the news
While we don’t advocate censorship, we do suggest that you take particular care about your child’s exposure to news events. The consistency of images can be frightening for young children who don’t understand the notion of distance and have difficulty distinguishing between reality and fiction. Older children and teenagers will probably be interested in news events, but they probably need an adult available to answer their questions and reassure them.
Engage in the news with older children
Many issues are now arising from this event that may be of significant interest to older primary-aged children and teenagers. Be prepared to engage in discussions about political leadership, gun laws, the coverage of the event itself by the media and other issues that will emerge. Increasingly, young people are demonstrating that they want to have a voice in shaping the world they live in. Give them a chance to air their concerns and formulate their ideas in the safe confines of home.
Manage emotions raised
The Christchurch tragedy may raise many emotions for children and young people including sadness over the loss of life, confusion over how such an event could happen, and outrage over injustice. Take your cues from your children and follow the threads that emerge. Demonstrate that you understand how that they maybe upset and clarify their emotions if possible: “It’s understandable to be angry when you hear news like this.”
Moderate your language
Currently, we live in very divisive times. The fact that this shooting was carried out on one particular group demonstrates just the extent of the divisiveness of our community. Encourage kids to be inclusive, steering clear of valued-laden, extreme language such as ‘terrorists’, ‘evil’ and ‘horrors’ when describing the events and the alleged perpetrators. Not only does this type of language encourage children and young people to take a position rather than focus on the problems, it risks desensitising them to the reality of the impact of this event. The use of more sedate, yet descriptive language such as ‘gunman’, ‘awful’ and ‘tragedy’ can take remove the emotional sting, while demonstrating the enormity of the event’s impact.
Keep to a normal routine
Your child may feel powerless. You may feel the same way as that’s what events like the Christchurch shooting does to us. Maintaining the same sleeping, eating and daily routines can help to restore a sense of control over our daily lives.
Show them how to change the world
Arguably, these are the worst of times in terms of social divisiveness. Our children in many ways are letting us know that they don’t want to continue living this way. So how can they have an impact? Recently a timely clue came my way in the form of a notification from Facebook. Over the weekend, a parent shared an existing message to her Muslim friends as a message of hope. The quote reads:
“Don’t become too pre-occupied with your child’s academic ability, but instead teach them to sit with those sitting alone. Teach them to be kind. Teach them to offer help. Teach them to be a friend to the lonely. Teach them to encourage others. Teach them to think about other people. Teach them to share. Teach them to look for the good. This is how they will change the world.”
We get that power back when we start to impact the people around us in small ways, making positive changes for the better.
‘Kindness’, ‘helping others’, ‘encouraging’, ‘sharing’ and similar concepts don’t make great political slogans but they form the basis of every strong community- which is precisely what kids need.
Parenting Ideas always keeps a close eye on parenting trends so we can help keep you ahead of the curve. With this in mind Parenting Ideas founder Michael Grose will guide you through eight new parenting trends for 2019.
1. The normalisation of anxiety
Amazingly, when Australia conducted the first Child and Adolescent Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing in 1998 anxiety wasn’t listed in the list of disorders that impacted kids. It wasn’t on the radar in the same way that major depressive disorders and ADHD were. With one in seven Australian kids in the 4-18 age group experiencing a mental health disorder, it’s fair to say anxiety is on the radar now.
The last few years have seen the rise in the normalisation of anxiousness across all strands of the community. People from all walks of life are talking about it and there’s more knowledge about its management. There’s so much to learn and Parenting Ideas have a lot to share about this parenting trend, beginning with my Managing your child’s anxiety webinar in May.
2. Unearthing kids strengths
The Positive Psychology movement has been a strong influencer on school wellbeing practices for many years, but it’s struggled to have cut-through with parents – until now. The huge success of Professor Lea Waters’ book ‘The Strength Switch’ has seen parents start to embrace the strength-based approach with their families.
The holistic nature of this approach appeals to parents who are able to use knowledge of their children’s strengths to motivate, boost confidence and better manage their behaviour. We’re thrilled to have presented Prof. Lea Waters in her webinar on this topic recently – Switching on your child’s strengths .
3. Integrating digital technology into family-life
The rise of digital technology has been biggest game-changer in my three decades in parenting, bringing problems to families such as cyber-bullying, online safety and kids’ overuse. We know that parents want knowledge and information about children’s digital technology use beyond mere cease and desist tactics that many experts present.
Successful integration of children’s technology use into family-life is trending as a topic. Parents want kids to experience the benefits of digital technology, while staying safe. They also want to know how digital technology approach can enriching family-life rather than detract from it.
4. Wellbeing as a way of life, not merely a fad
The wellness industry has been thriving for years now and it’s beginning to make its mark on families. ‘Find a balance’, ‘Don’t over do your studies’, ‘Make sure you choose at least one subject you enjoy.’ The language kids hear is beginning to reflect the move toward mental health practices as a normal part of life, for happiness and wellbeing, and not just for optimal school success.
Parents will continue this year to look for the latest research, information and strategies to support the mental health and wellbeing of their families. Schools, as a trusted source of information, have a significant role to play in educating parents about this trend.
The rise of digital technology has been biggest game-changer in my three decades in parenting, bringing problems to families such as cyber-bullying, online safety and kids’ overuse. We know that parent want knowledge and information about children’s digital technology use beyond mere cease and desist tactics that many experts present.
5. Balancing extra-curricular activities
Has the student extra-curricular activity trend reached its nadir? Has kids’ busyness peaked? For many years the benefits of kids being involved in extra-curricular activities has been spruiked, while ignoring the cost in terms of overworked kids, frantic parents and stretched family time.
Now get ready to hear the word ‘balance’ replace the terms ‘benefits’ when extra-curricular activities are considered. The potential stresses that student overload can cause on family-life and parent wellbeing is now a common concern. In this increasingly competitive educational climate parents are yearning for more balance. This year Parenting Ideas well-being expert Dr. Jodi Richardson is conducting a practical webinar to help parents strike the right balance between kids’ activity, their mental health and family-life.
6. Healthy rites of passage
As a community we’ve struggled for many years to create rites of passage for young people. Once a young person’s first job, or their twenty-first birthday were significant markers of maturity, offering a sense that they were entering into the adult world. Community changes have largely eradicated these traditional markers, which makes it harder for a young person to know when they’ve become an adult.
There are many healthy ways to recognise a young person’s growing maturity and mark their journey into adulthood. Many families are now creating their own to mark events such as the end of primary school, the move into the teenage years, and different stages of adolescence. This year Dr. Arne Rubenstein will show parents how to create 21st Century rites of passage in a webinar he’s conducting at Parenting Ideas. We hope this trend is here to stay.
7. Understanding the body clock
Sleep has been high on most school’s ‘must reinforce with parents’ lists for the last few years. And rightfully so, as Australian kids haven’t been getting enough of this performance-enhancing, mental health-boosting activity. Most sleep messages provided to parents have focused on the development of good sleep habits, with regularity and routine being the major strategies. These are slim picking indeed in the light of recent sleep findings from the world of neuroscience.
The 24-hour body clock (circadian rhythm) until now has been thought to regulate feelings of sleepiness and wakefulness over a 24-hour period. Recent findings show that the body clock drives the timing for so much of our bodily and brain functions as well. Working with the body clock means not only does a child or teen get a good night’s sleep, but it also helps them maintain optimum body and mental performance. Work against it and not only is their mental health affected but daily tasks are more difficult to perform. The most remarkable finding though, is that we can reset our body clocks every day. That’s exciting as it’s easier than we first thought for kids to get the proverbial good night’s sleep. It’s a matter of making the body clock work with them, rather than against them.
8. Conversations that influence.
A decade ago the British did something simple yet profound. Realising that parents needed to converse with their kids if they were to influence their behaviour and thinking they conducted a nation-wide campaign to encourage parents to regularly share meal times with their children. So successful was this campaign that it saw a significant increase in shared mealtimes, and has been attributed to giving back to parents the ability to have influence, which was previously considered to be lost, over their children’s behaviour.
In Australia, parent-child conversations have been promoted as a relationship-builders, rather than ways to impact on children’s and young people’s behaviour and thinking. As our world is becoming increasingly chaotic and fast changing, parents are once more seeing the benefits of two-way exchanges with children about a range of issues. The meal-table, something so central to traditional Australian parenting, and in later years somewhat neglected, is now making a comeback. And we’re thrilled about that.
Awareness of trends influences our work at Parenting Ideas, and we believe it should influence the reading and learning of parents. It’s our observation that the most savvy and confident parents are those that keep one step ahead rather than always playing catch-up with what children and teenagers are thinking and doing.
Recently, I saw a mother give a simple, yet profound resilience lesson to her three year old. The toddler fell into his dog’s bowl, saturating his t-shirt and giving himself a fright. His mum quickly helped him saying, “Oh well!” The three-year-old bravely parroted his mother, saying, “Oh well!” and dashed off to play.
Every day there are opportunities for parents to give their children lessons in resilience. Promoting personal resilience focuses on helping kids cope with life’s hurts, disappointments and challenges in the present, while building strengths for the future.
Adult reactions matter
It’s in our reactions to these and other every day mistakes, mess-ups, muck-ups and hurts where the big lessons in resilience are taught and reinforced.
The lessons for the three-year-old were simple but profound. “Oh well” meant:
Don’t look for fault or blame
Keep your perspective
Pick yourself off and continue with what you were doing
How to react
The resilience lesson for this mother was equally as profound. When a minor mishap with a child or teenager occurs:
Match your response to the incident
Stay calm and be positive
Don’t look for fault or blame
Remember, stuff happens
Resilience lesson for parents – “Oh well”
Every day there are opportunities for parents to give their children lessons in resilience.
A child misses being picked for a team that he had his heart set on joining. “Oh well. Let’s see how you go next time.”
When a boy experiences rejection in the playground at school. “Oh well. You’ll find that some people don’t want to be your friend.”
When a teenage girl doesn’t get the mark she thinks she deserves in an assignment. “Oh well. Sometimes we don’t get the marks we think we deserve.”
Match your response to the challenge to promote resilience
There are times when “Oh well” won’t cut it.
When a child is bullied he needs your continued support.
When a student’s continuous efforts at improvement are constantly met with criticism then you may need to act on his behalf and meet with a teacher.
When a child always struggles to make the grade and is never picked for a team then you may need to help him make different choices.
These types of situations also present opportunities for daily lessons in resilience, but they require more parental support and teaching.
The resilience lessons learned are deeper and include concepts such as ‘things will eventually go you way,’ ‘there are times when you need to seek help’ and ‘this too shall pass.’
Promoting personal resilience focuses on helping kids cope with life’s hurts, disappointments and challenges in the present, while building strengths for the future.
Daily lessons in resilience are everywhere. You need to be ready to make the most of these valuable lessons when they come your way.
The bond between mother and daughter is truly unique and has far reaching effects on the development and socialisation of girls throughout their lifetime.
Increasing the emotional connection between mothers and daughters can foster mutual support. Here are some ideas to help you be an effective mother for your daughter.
Know your impact
Mothers are a powerful influence. The way a mother acts in front of her daughter largely influences her daughter’s behaviour. When a mother can model how to feel pride, take pleasure in her accomplishments, feel a sense of competence and hold a positive self-image she is empowering her daughter in infinite ways.
Be okay with saying no
Mothers need to be a part of the beauty conversation with daughters. Don’t leave it to the media or popular culture to be educating her on what beauty is. Model and teach her that beauty comes from the inside. It is a quality that glows out.
Saying no benefits both of you. Daughters, like sons, feel safer with boundaries. Boundaries are essential to keeping her safe emotionally and physically. Daughters will often push the boundaries and pester their mothers to give in to them. When you stand firm you teach your daughter that firmness is a strength worth adopting. Your firmness gives her permission to say no when they are put under pressure to conform by peers and in their early relationships.
Seize the opportunity to take in the full presence of your daughter when you can. Notice what she is like. Notice her and openly endorse her likes, dislikes and opinions. You do not need to agree with them, but you can validate them, which demonstrates respect and gives her permission to be her own person.
Do not stop girls from becoming angry but coach them on the skills she needs to work through strong emotions effectively. She must have the opportunity to sit in the experience of those emotions, learn to cope with them and navigate her way through them.
Show her that it’s okay to express a full range of emotions. Emotions are an incredibly powerful tool, and we need to teach daughters that when they feel angry or upset, it’s a signal that something is important and that it should be expressed.
Have confidence in your mothering abilities. Your mother’s instinct will tell you how to parent your daughter well and how to raise her so that she becomes herself. This intuition will guide you in setting limits and knowing if, and when, she needs help. Regardless of what girls may tell their mothers, they want them to be central in their lives.
Expand her definition of beauty
Mothers need to be a part of the beauty conversation with daughters. Don’t leave it to the media or popular culture to be educating her on what beauty is. Model and teach her that beauty comes from the inside. It is a quality that glows out. The more you are able to do that for yourself, the greater she is going to be able to do it for herself.
Help her find her passion
Encourage her to try a variety of activities so that she can discover her passions in early to mid adolescence. Some girls take longer than others to find their passions. Think of these girls as hummingbirds – they are driven by curiosity. Once a girl finds her passion, she is able to use that as her motivator to develop her skills.
Fracture the good girl image
Allow your daughter to make mistakes, it is one of the best ways to build her confidence. Avoiding failure only sets up a vicious cycle that says “you must be perfect”. Give her the permission to struggle so that she can let the hard times make her stronger, and understand that she can get through challenges that occur to her. This is a valuable lesson that kids learn from their same gender parent.
Gender identity is on a continuum – girls grow up to be women and women were once girls. Some argue that adult women struggle with the same things as younger girls, just in a different context. This may afford great empathy or it may be a great interference to problem solving if mothers are still working it out for themselves.
Increasingly boys are becoming angry, aggressive and violent. News reports of young men committing acts of violence against each other in the streets is an increasing occurrence. More and more, acts of physical aggression and violence are played out in schoolyards across the country and they involve boys on most occasions.
So what’s behind this aggressive behaviour?
Boys Education expert Ian Lillico believes that much of the aggression that plays out at home and at school stems from a denial of boys’ feelings. When you close a boy down and don’t give voice to their emotional life and don’t teach them how to recognise and manage their emotions, then when they are placed in emotionally-charged situations, or situations where they can’t talk their way out of they’ll act out, often demonstratively. Girls, on the other hand, who are denied an emotional voice will act in or internalise their distress so they may experience eating disorders and depression, whereas boys’ outward aggression can harm others.
So how can you help boys voice their emotions safely and in healthy ways so they don’t act out angrily, aggressively and violently? Here are some ideas:
Help them let their bad feelings out
Sometimes boys need help to give voice to their bad feelings. This may mean sitting with them when they are angry and helping them calm down, then helping them articulate what it is they are angry about.
Healthy environments for boys operate under the following maxim: “There is nothing so bad a boy can’t talk about it, but there are actions that are unacceptable.” For a start don’t accept a ‘boys will be boys’ mentality. While boys may have more of a propensity to resolve conflict physically, as parents and teachers we need to do all in our power to help them express emotions verbally and in other socially acceptable ways. That can get a little tricky, particularly when their comments to a sibling or friend can become personal. It’s better for a boy to say to a sibling when he is angry with them, “I don’t like you” than to hit them, which they may feel like doing. It’s better still if he can articulate feelings behind the behaviour rather than the person. “I don’t like it when you take my things, because it’s just not fair!”
Sometimes boys need help to give voice to their bad feelings. This may mean sitting with them when they are angry and helping them calm down, then helping them articulate what it is they are angry about. When there is long-term bad blood involving a boy at home you may have to sit with both children and give them a chance to voice their thoughts about the other in a controlled way.
Sometimes you need to sit down with both of them to clear the air. Make sure you sit both children down opposite each other. Give both kids a chance to have their say about the behaviour of their sibling. Say something like: “Sam, I notice every time your sister says something you get angry and say awful things to her.” “Jessica, you always seem to be arguing with your brother. Is there a reason for this?” Then ask them what they’d like to change about the other; what they’d like the other to do or not do. You’ll often hear comments such as: “I’d just like you to stop calling me ‘stupid’. I hate it when you do that. I really hate it.”
Give them space and silence to process
Parenting educator Maggie Dent says that boys need quiet spaces to help sort out their thoughts. Some boys, like wind-up toys, just keeping going until they run out of puff. They have two switches – fast and off. These boys benefit from some space and silence too. They just can’t stand too much of it.
Encourage downtime so they can relax
According to Maggie Dent, boys’ constant activity can be stressful as the heightened cortisone levels, from being in the go-go-go state, can create serious problems with anxiety and later fear based mental health problems. Constant activity can also cause sleep deprivation as winding those bodies and busy heads down for sleep is not easy. That makes relaxation and downtime essential for boys. They become highly wired when they’re overloaded with activity meaning that they can easily act out rather than chill out when they are under stress. Put relaxation activity on their daily routine.
Encourage them to let off steam in healthy ways
If aggressive behaviour continues then consider scheduling regular time for boys to let off steam. Boys are more likely to let off steam when they are outside – whether in organised activities or simply exploring the natural environment or their neighbourhood, and when involved with some type of activity with others. Playing outside also helps boys sleep which is important when we’re talking about helping them manage anger and aggression. Those boys who have a tendency toward anger and aggressive behaviour generally have poor sleep habits as well. Lack of sleep leads to irritability and increased difficulty managing your emotions.
Check their environment for modelled aggression
Many boys are susceptible to copying aggressive behaviours that they are exposed to. It’s important then that the males in their lives can model healthy emotional expression for their boys to see. If the males close to them are constantly angry and aggressive (either physically or verbally) then this not only shows the way but gives them permission to be the same way. Also keep a check on the videos they watch, the digital games they play and the books that they read. While not all boys will be adversely influenced by the content of the images, games and text they are exposed to there is no doubt that some boys are more susceptible than others to aggression displayed in their environment – particularly when it’s displayed by heroes and those they look up to and admire.
Coach boys to respond slowly
Fortunately, most boys will respond well to a parent, teacher or coach who is willing to assist them to better self-manage and be better communicators. It helps that they know that you care for them and that you treat them respectfully. Encourage the boy in your life to think before he acts. That may be easier said than done as many boys are hard-wired for reflexive action, rather than reflection. That doesn’t mean that they can stop and think, just that it may require some practice. Here’s a strategy to try: Encourage a boy to temporarily step away from a source of stress or a situation that makes him angry. Moving away needs to become his default mechanism. Then he should take some big belly breaths to engage his parasympathetic system that enables him to relax, which is essential if he is going to reflect rather than react to his emotions.
Many boys respond to think language
A boy may scoff if you ask him how he feels. This reaction is maybe because he may feel uncomfortable talking about his emotions. Also talking about emotions may not be the done thing in his peer group. As an entry into his emotional world you will have more success asking him what he thinks about something. “What do you think about missing the team?” “Awful. I hate it. The coach doesn’t like me.” His response will in all likelihood be on an emotional level, which is what you want.
Emotional self-management begins will adult validation. Let him know it’s normal and okay to feel angry, annoyed or let down. Help him verbalise his emotions and look for ways to put a gap between his feelings of anger and taking action. The longer the gap the less likely he is to be aggressive in his response.
Confident kids are competent kids. Past experience has taught them that they can be successful. The easiest (and most neglected way) to help develop competency is to give kids opportunities to help out at home. Don’t overburden them with jobs. Sensibly allocate chores according to their age, interests and study requirements.
Expect children and young people to help without being paid.
Provide pocket money, but avoid linking it to chores. Helping in exchange for money develops in children a notion of ‘What’s in it for me?’, which is a self-centred view of life.
However many parents tell me that they can’t get their kids to help unless they pay them. Those parents have made a rod for their own backs. It’s time for a change of tune. Don’t wait until they are old enough to help. Start now, regardless of age. Toddlers and teens and all ages in between should be expected to chip in and help.
The term ‘chore’ definitely has an image problem. Use the term ‘help’ as it is easier on the ear and really does indicate what you want from your kids.
Here are eight ideas to help you get your kids to help out at home without being paid:
Keep jobs real
Kids can sense it when parents give them jobs to keep them busy. Make sure the jobs you apportion make a real contribution to their own the family’s well-being.
Balance the personal chores with family jobs
Chores are generally divided into two areas. Jobs such as keeping a bedroom tidy benefits a child and jobs such as setting the table benefit the family. By doing this kids learn to contribute positively to family-life.
Place more difficult tasks on a roster
The children can refer to it when needed, which takes the load off you and removes the need to remind them. Rotate the unpleasant tasks frequently. And here’s the key to making rosters work – place yourself on the roster too! Kids are generally more willing to help when you as a parent are involved.
Use Grandma’s principle to make sure jobs are done
Grandma’s principle means you do the less pleasant tasks first. That is, make sure jobs are finished before mealtimes or before starting pleasant activities such as watching television.
Avoid doing jobs for children
When children get the message that no one will do their jobs for them they will be more likely to help out.
Show your appreciation for their help
Make a fuss when they help so they know that their contribution to the family is valued. If you do it often enough they may even show their appreciation for all you do for them!
Keep your standards high
Don’t accept half-hearted efforts or half-completed jobs. If you think your child is capable of putting the cat food back in the fridge and placing the spoon in the dishwasher then insist that he or she does just that, rather than leaving the cat food on the sink. A job properly done is valued in the world of work, which they will eventually enter.
Rebrand the term ‘chore’ as ‘help’
The term ‘chore’ definitely has an image problem. Use the term ‘help’ as it is easier on the ear and really does indicate what you want from your kids.